My thoughts on silent corridors

I have no strong feelings either way.

Confusion about pay scales

A cynic might think that it suits the government to create confusion about pay increases, but whatever your view, it’s clear that this year’s changes have been complex. After years of fairly simple – if small – changes to pay, the soundbites surrounding this year’s changes along with the strange calculations about how it’s worked out have led to some confusion which I’m attempting to clear up here:

Extra funding

The DfE doesn’t have enough detail about which teachers earn what to allow it to make exact calculations at a school level. Having announced that it would fund any increase over 1%, the calculations are not that straightforward. The ‘estimate’ they have used has been calculated by working out roughly how much it will cost nationally, and then sharing the money out between schools based on their size.

This means that a typical 420-pupil primary school will be given an additional sum of nearly £12,000 for the whole year, which is intended to cover the additional increase.

Of course, if that school has lots of staff on the upper and leadership scales who only get the 2%/1.5% rise, it may cover all the costs over 1%; if they have lots of staff on main scale who should be getting 3.5%, it may not.

Which pay points are increasing.

Many people are reporting that only teachers at the bottom/top of each pay scale have been given a pay rise by the government. This is a confusion that stems from a misunderstanding about teachers pay. For 5 years now, the government has only set out minimum and maximum rates for each pay scale. Although as teachers we’re used to talking about points M1 to M6, and U1 to U3, these no longer exist by statute. The government sets out the minimum a newly-qualified teacher can be paid, and the maximum any teacher on the main scale can be paid; everything else in between is for schools to decide – normally based on the recommendation of their local authority. (Of course, many academies will also follow the national approach, so will also have the decision to make, although they can choose completely different pay scales if they prefer)

For that reason, the %age awards this year are only applied by the government to the minimum and maximum of each scale. It is then up to schools/LAs (and academies) to decide how to apply it elsewhere. What that means in practice is set out in some examples here:

  • A teacher on M1 who doesn’t move up to M2 (or its equivalent on its authority’s payscales) will automatically get the 3.5% increase, because the new minimum amount will increase (from £22,917 to £23,729 outside London)
  • A teacher on M1 who is offered a payrise by their school after appraisal or similar, will get whatever pay rise their school/LA policy allows for. For most schools that still means a move to the equivalent of the old M2 point (£24,728), based on the recommended pay scales that the unions publish together. Whether the amount of the M2 payment is increased by 3.5% is up to the LA’s pay policy. The government would argue that they are giving funding for all teachers to increase; an individual school.LA/academy may decide that it can’t afford that increase and take the opportunity to set pay points that are lower than the union recommendations.
  • Although the maximum of the main scale has been raised (from £33,824 to £35,008), it does not mean that all teachers currently paid at the old maximum are entitled to the new maximum. Again, its up to the policy of the local authority or academy trust.

The animation below is an attempt to show the main options for employers:


It would be a very odd choice to increase the pay of those at the top of the scale, while not increasing the pay of those on M5, or its equivalent. But arguably that is a choice open to local authorities & schools.


The fact that this confusion still lingers shows how few local authorities and academy trusts have moved away from the well-understood point system. I’d imagine there is a good likelihood that a majority of authorities will move all teachers up by the respective 3.5% / 2% / 1.5% increases that the government announced.

On the importance of vocabulary

Just a quick blog, inspired by this much more detailed and challenging one by Solomon Kingsnorth:

I think he has a point about the importance of vocabulary, and it’s something we can easily underestimate. It’s also something we can worry that we’ll never be able to resolve, because there’s no way of knowing what vocabulary will come up in any given text or test.

So I took a look at this year’s KS2 Reading test paper and tried to identify some of the vocabulary required to answer each question. It’s not every word in the texts, but it’s also not just the case of the 10 marks theoretically set aside for vocabulary. In fact, I think there were 80 or more examples of vocabulary which might not have been met by pupils who don’t read regularly:

Q1 approximately, survive
Q2 disguise
Q3 razor-like, powerful
Q4 majority
Q5 develops, newborn
Q6 hibernate
Q7 captivity, territory
Q8 puzzling
Q9 vital, essential
Q10 extinction, survive, supplies, diminishing, poaching, territory
Q11 adopt, reserve
Q12 challenge
Q15 fascinating,
Q16 protective, enfold
Q17 punished
Q18 mountainous, praised, lavishly
Q19 wounded, lame, circumstance
Q20 seized
Q22 vividly recall
Q23 frail, hobbled
Q24 hobbled, hesitate, peered
Q26 lit up
Q27 amusing, shocking, puzzling, comforting
Q28 arrives, injured
Q29 verses
Q30 suggests, bothered, basins, smelt
Q31 lifeless, ancestors
Q32 guardian
Q33 devices (left to my own devices)
Q34 recesses
Q35 dawned (dawned on me)
Q36 assorted, debris, network, grime
Q37 detemination, thorough
Q38 impression, evidence, frightening, intensity, cautiously
Q39 justice, efforts
Q40 inspect, fashioned, ought

The only questions that are counted as vocabulary marks are the 10 written in italics. And all those ones in bold? They’re listed as inference questions in the mark schemes. The challenge of inference is often about interpreting complex language as much as it is about guessing what the writer intended.

Perhaps more importantly, very few of those words are technically specific to the texts they appeared in. Even in the case of the non-fiction text about pandas, much of the apparently technical vocabulary is applicable to plenty of other contexts that children meet in the course of the curriculum.

The link here to ‘tier two’ vocabulary is clear: there is plenty of vocabulary here that would come up in a number of different contexts, both through fiction and non-fiction reading.

Which rather makes me think that Solomon is on to something important: a significant part of teaching reading is about getting them reading and reading to them.

Who wants to be on the council for the Chartered College of Teaching?

A few years ago, I was invited to be a member of the panel that helped to select the original board of what has now become the Chartered College of Teaching. Aside from then becoming a member when it launched, I have had no further involvement, and have watched with interest as it has begun to develop.

I have been particularly interested in the arguments surrounding the make-up of the various parts of the college, as I know how much deliberation this caused me when selecting the original board. I know from the selection process that I wouldn’t have been up to the task of setting up the organisation as those members did. Equally, I know now that I wouldn’t have the time, or probably the knowledge, to be an effective member of the council.

But I do think that teachers should be at the heart of that process wherever possible. I would include school leaders in that in its broadest sense, but I hope that we’ll reach a stage where the backbone of the organisation is made up of people who still have to think about planning lessons on the train on the way to meetings.

There has been plenty of talk on Twitter about the current selection of candidates, and I’m minded to agree that there are too many potential council members who are not employed in schools – particularly in the fellows category. But there are also plenty of candidates who are based in schools; you just have to be able to find them.

I tried, by trawling through all the candidates’ statements, to identify their current roles and the sector they mainly work in. There are plenty of representatives from Higher Education, and probably disproportionate numbers from headteacher level. There are also too few from primary for my liking, but then… I didn’t stand either.

I guess the key thing is, members now have to the chance to vote. Perhaps if this helps teacher members to find candidates they want to read more about, then the trawl will be worthwhile?

Caveat: I have described current roles as best I can, based on the information I could find. If you know better about any candidate, please do let me know here or via Twitter.


Name Current role Sector
Jane Adamson ITT programme director HE
Farah Ahmed Oversees SLT of 2 alternative schools
Gareth Alcott AHT / Director of Teaching School Secondary
Jon Audain Senior Lecturer ITE HE
Paul Barber Director, CES
Penny Barratt CEO of MAT (Special school focused) Trust
Steven Berryman Director of Music Independent
Tony Berwick Headteacher Primary
Paul Bevis Consultant (former HT) Independent
Tony Bird Deputy headteacher Independent
Helen Blake Lead practitioner / Director of Geography Secondary
David Bowman Teacher (retired 2017) Secondary
Laura Bunny ITT leader in teaching school Secondary
Kevin Burnett Headteacher, retired Secondary
Dr Bob Burstow Lecturer, retired HE
Robert Campbell MAT CEO Trust
Stephen Campbell Deputy HT, independent Independent
Eddie Carline Senior Lecturer, ITE HE
Sarah Counter MAT CEO Trust
Jon Davison Dean of IOE HE
Joan Deslandes Headteacher Secondary
Dr Chris Drew Principal, international college Independent
Nicola Faulkner Headteacher Primary
Paul Foxton Assistant Head, semi-selective secondary Secondary
Colin Goffin Executive Vice Principal Trust
Matthew Grafton Head of Science Secondary
Dr Peter Gregory Principal Lecturer, ITE HE
Adam Hounslow-Eyre Senior Lecturer HE
Iain Hulland Consultant, former HT Secondary
Paul Johnson Assistant Headteacher Secondary
Sarah Lachlann-Dean SEND Teacher Secondary
Sarah Longville MAT CEO Trust
NaheedaMaharasingam Headteacher Primary
Peter Mattock Head of maths Secondary
Elizabeth Negus Lecturer, Barking University HE
Joy O’Neill Formerly SEN
Ann Palmer Principal Secondary
Jo Palmer-Tweed Director of ITT HE
Wendy Pearmain Lead practitioner, Science Secondary
Kit Perona-Wright Head of Co-curricular Independent
Lisa Pettifer Head of English Secondary
Vivienne Porritt Consultant
Cathy Rowland Headteacher, infant Primary
Lucy Jayne Rycroft-Smith Mathematics research
Jonathan Sandling Director of studies, private college Independent
Rachael Shaw Headteacher, junior Primary
Professor Jonathan Shepherd Royal College of Surgeons
Kate Sida-Nicholls ITT leader Secondary
Andy Stone Headteacher Secondary
Grant Strudley Headteacher Primary
Mike Taylor Science teacher/PhD candidate Secondary
Aimee Tinkler Senior teacher/SENCo Primary
Jo Tregenza Head of ITT HE
Victoria Walker Deputy headteacher Secondary
Jenna Clare Watson EY Teacher Primary
David Weston Education Charity CEO
Nigel Willetts Deputy Headteacher Independent
Hannah Wilson Executive headteacher Secondary
Dr Roger Wood Lecturer in Education HE
Matt Yeoman Lead practitioner/Research lead Secondary


Name Current role Sector
Paul Barber* Director, CES
Penny Barratt* CEO of MAT (Special school focused) Trust
Mary Briggs Principal Lecturer HE
Stephanie Burke Director of Studies Independent
Dr Natasha Crellin Senior Leader Primary
Joan Deslandes* Headteacher Secondary
Lee Faith Headteacher (?) Secondary
Phil Garner Headteacher (?) Independent
Will Grant Art teacher, grammar school Secondary
Daniel Harvey Senior Leader Secondary
Julie Hunter Deputy headteacher Secondary
Gethyn Jones Director of Physics Secondary
Christian Kitley Head of history, housemaster Independent
Sarah Lachlann-Dean* SEND Teacher Secondary
Daniel Langley Head of Drama Secondary
Sue Lomas Geography consultant Trust
Peter Mattock* Head of maths Secondary
Rebecca Nobes 2i/c MFL Secondary
Angela O’Hara Headteacher Primary
Wendy Pearmain* Lead practitioner, Science Secondary
Sue Plant Head of School Secondary
Julia Quick Lead practitioner, SLE Secondary
Kate Redman Headteacher, junior Primary
Carolyn Roberts Headteacher Secondary
Kulvinder Sandal Assistant headteacher Secondary
Dee Saran Deputy headteacher Independent
Angela Schofield Teacher Primary
Jonathan Shepherd Surgeon
Mike Taylor* Science teacher/PhD candidate Secondary
Aimee Tinkler* Senior teacher/SENCo Primary
Andrew Truby Executive Head Primary
Victoria Walker* Deputy headteacher Secondary
Ben Ward Maths teacher Secondary

External VP

Name Current role Sector
Robert Campbell* MAT CEO Trust
Rebecca Cox Headteacher Primary
NaheedaMaharasingam* Headteacher Primary
Jo Palmer-Tweed* Director of ITT HE
Sam Twiselton Director of IoE HE
Jenna Clare Watson* EY Teacher Primary
Matt Yeoman* Lead practitioner/Research lead Secondary

Internal VP

Name Current role Sector
Sarah Counter* MAT CEO Trust
Andrew De Csillery MD Herts for Learning
Emily Hollis Associate Assistant Head Secondary
Vivienne Porritt Consultant


Name Current role Sector
Stephen Munday CEO/Executive Principal Secondary


Name Current role Sector
Marcus Richards Chartered Accountant

*Also standing as a fellow

An editable Word version of these tables is available here.

Standardised and Scaled Scores

Lots of primary schools are now using standardised tests in each year group to help monitor the progress of pupils. They can be useful for identifying those pupils who seem to have dropped behind their peers, or perhaps aren’t progressing through the curriculum as you might expect based on their prior attainment.

However, the fact that standardised scores from such tests look very much like the scaled scores issued for end of Key Stage assessments can cause confusion. If schools are aiming to predict outcomes at the end of Key Stage 2, it doesn’t make sense to treat the two as the same thing.

Standardised scores

Tests like Rising Stars’ PiRA and PUMA assessments, or the NFER tests, use standardised scores based on a sample of pupils who have taken the test. For a standardised scale, a score of 100 is the average achievement in a cohort. People are usually familiar with this idea from IQ tests. Scores above 100 suggest achievement that it above average, and vice versa. But even this we should take with caution.

Because no test is a perfect measure, it’s not wise to treat somebody with a score of 98 as any different from a score of 102; we just can’t be that accurate. Most test series will give you an indication of confidence intervals. That is to say, a range of scores within which you could reasonably expect a pupil to fall. For example, scoring 103 on a test might mean that you could be 95% sure that such a pupil would score between 99 and 107 if you kept testing them. Of course, we don’t keep testing them. We use the figures from a single test as an indicator of how they are doing compared to others their age.

Standardised scores are based on the familiar concept of the bell curve. Half of pupils will score below 100, and half will score above (well, after those who have scored exactly 100). For most school tests, only about one in 6 children will score above 115; similarly, only 1/6 will score below 85.


Scaled scores

Scaled scores, while looking very similar to standardised scores, are in fact very different. For scaled scores, the 100 marker has been planned in advance. There is a threshold of attainment which pupils must cross in order to score at least 100. In the Key Stage 2 tests since 2016, considerably more than half of pupils have score over 100.

In simple terms: it is easier to score 100+ in the national tests than in a standardised test like PIRA or NFER.

If we look again the bell curve, around 75% of pupils achieved 100+ in KS2 maths. If we look at the top ¾ of achievers in a standardised test, then some of those pupils might have scored as little as 90 on the standardised scale. It’s not to do with whether the tests are easier or harder; just that the scoring systems are different.

On the bell curve, while only 50% of children can score over 100 on the standardised test, around ¾ can – and do – on the statutory tests.


The problem is reversed when it comes to Greater Depth. On a standardised test, you would expect around ¼ of pupils to score 110 or higher. However, for KS2 maths, only 17% of pupils got a scaled score of greater than 110.


As ever, making predictions is a fool’s game. Scoring 95 on one year’s standardised test is no more an indicator of SATs success than England winning a match this year means they’ll win the World Cup next year.

If you rely on standardised scores for making your predictions of later scaled scores, then you may find yourself over-estimating your proportions at greater depth, and potentially under-estimating your proportions achieving the expected standard.

Rising Stars have provided indicative bands based on the correlation between their PiRA/PUMA tests and the national tests – but it’s not a perfect science.

Bad news to bury worse news

The DfE announced today that it plans to introduce a multiplication tables check in Year 4 – and I’m angry.

I’m not alone in feeling angry it seems, but my reasons are very different than those of so many.  The multiplication check has been government policy for some time, has been moved to Year 4 on the basis of feedback from the profession, and will not form part of the high stakes assessment information that is published every year. Perhaps more importantly, the check focuses on something which is undoubtedly useful for mathematics. It’s a classic case of where teaching to the test is absolutely desirable.

So why the anger?

Well, the DfE also chose today – perhaps not coincidentally – to release the updates to the Teacher Assessment frameworks for KS1 and KS2. So while everyone was getting their knickers in a twist about whether an online check was helpful or harmful, the department managed to quietly sneak out the news that the useless writing assessment procedures we’ve been battling with for nearly three years now are here to stay.

It’s worth remembering that these are the frameworks against which statutory teacher assessments are made. The decisions which have seen wild volatility between and within local authorities, a failed moderation system, huge discrepancies in what is permitted, and a real lack of understanding of the circumstances under which judgements should be made. This is the system we’ll continue to have to use in the years to come.

Notably, the DfE doesn’t trust such judgements for the purposes of setting a baseline for secondary schools. The new progress 8 measure ignores the Writing judgement completely. Yet it will remain an integral part of the high stakes assessment process against which primaries are judged. Schools and school leaders will continue to have to choose between honest, accurate assessment, and playing the system to ensure that schools remain above the floor and coasting standards.

It’s clear from recent years’ results that the system isn’t a fair or useful reflection of how pupils are achieving in schools, and that the high stakes use of the outcomes will unjustly damage schools and careers. It’s obvious to most that the framework offers no sensible judgement on the quality of children’s writing, or their skill as a writer.

Yet here we all are, arguing about whether a 25-minute quiz in Year 4 is the problem.

I can’t help but think that that’s exactly what the DfE hoped for.


What is a “particular weakness” anyway?

In DfE terms, it’s early days for being able to make decisions about KS2 Writing outcomes. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we were reaching February without any exemplification at all, so for the STA to have released its “particular weakness” scenarios as early as mid-January is progress!

However, publishing the materials is one thing. Providing the clarity that a high stakes statutory assessment process dearly needs is quite another. The example scenarios offer some insight into the thinking at the STA about this new ‘flexibility’, but seem to have deliberately skirted round the key issues that keep coming up, such as dyslexia!

In an effort to get a sense of the interpretations out there, I put together some very brief scenarios of my own, and asked Y6 teachers to say whether or not they thought such pupils would be awarded the expected standard. And as I feared, there is a real lack of clarity about. The six example scenarios follow, accompanied by the pie charts showing decisions. In each case, the blue represents those who would award EXS (based on a sample of 668 responses)

Scenario 1


77% award EXS

Edith has shown herself to be a fluent and confident writer. She adapts her writing for a variety of purposes, and in many cases has evidence of elements of working at Greater Depth. However, there are no examples of the passive voice used in any of her writing, except through planned tasks.

Scenario 2


67% award EXS

Beowulf is a good writer, who meets almost all of the requirements for EXS. However, he has been identified as being at high risk of dyslexia. In his writing he has shown that he can use some of the Y5/6 words accurately. However, he struggles with some of the regular spelling patterns from the curriculum, and his work contains several errors, particularly for the more complex patterns.

Scenario 3


36% award EXS

Ethelred writes effectively for a range of audiences and purposes, with sound grammatical accuracy. He uses inverted commas correctly to mark speech, but does not yet consistently include punctuation within the inverted commas.

Scenario 4


71% award EXS

Boudicca writes well, showing an interesting range of language, sentence type and punctuation. However, she has developed a largely un-joined style of writing, which although clearly legible does not include the usual diagonal or horizontal strokes.

Scenario 5


55% award EXS

Cleopatra is a confident writer, who shows good grasp of technical aspects and a beautiful joined style of writing. She enjoys writing fiction and can develop good plot, with writing that flows well. However, in non-fiction texts she is not always able to use the cohesive devices that enable cohesion between paragraphs. There are some examples of stock phrases used (On the other hand, Another reason, etc.) when writing in a formal style, but these are not consistent across the non-fiction texts she writes

Scenario 6



92% award EXS

Englebert is a technically sound writer. He is able to adapt writing for fiction and non-fiction purposes and uses a variety of language and punctuation techniques. His spelling of common patterns is generally good. However, there are a number of examples of words from the Y5/6 lists which are mis-spelt in his writing generally. His teacher has shown that he could spell these words correctly when tested in the context of dictated sentences throughout the year.


Notably, all but one of the results were within 5 percentage points of the figures above when looking only at those who said they had had some training provided on this topic. The biggest difference came for scenario 4 (handwriting) where only 61% of those who said they’d been trained would award EXS compared to 71% of the full sample.


It’s hard to say what I expected when I set up these little scenarios. I certainly don’t know what any “correct” responses might be. I think I imagined that some would be fairly evenly split – as with the case of Cleopatra’s weak use of cohesive devices.

Scenario 6 has genuinely surprised me. I don’t know what a moderator would say, but my fear about dictated sentences would be that children could easily be tested on a handful of words each week, learned for Friday’s test, and then quickly forgotten. Is that sufficient to say they can spell at the Expected Standard? Who knows? (That’s not to say that I think ‘no’ is the correct answer either; I’m not persuaded that the importance of spelling those particular words is as great as the system might suggest).

I’m equally surprised at scenario 3. Is it really right that speech punctuation is so so important that 2/3 of teachers would deny a pupil an EXS judgement on this alone – even when so many are happy to overlook spelling or handwriting failures?

As I say – I don’t have any answers. If any moderator – or perhaps an STA representative would like to give a definitive response, I’d be glad of it. I suspect that as close as we’d get to an official answer is that a moderator would have more evidence upon which to make a decision. Which is all well and good. For the 3-4% of pupils whose work gets moderated. For everyone else, we have to hope that teachers have got it right. And judging by these results, that’s not that easy!

Writing Moderation materials

Just a quick post to share the moderation support materials that were shared by the STA today. For some reason, they have only been shared via the password-protected NCA Tools website. However, there is no indication that they should be maintained under any conditions of secrecy, and no indication that they are not covered by the usual Crown Copyright rules… so here they are:





The presentations include clarifications about some of the criteria included in the assessment frameworks.

The moderation training packs include the examples that are meant to help illustrate what counts as an exception when you want to overlook one of the criteria.

See if you find it at all helpful…

National Curriculum test videos

With the introduction of the new style National Curriculum tests in 2016, I made some short informative videos for parents about each set of tests. Since then, I’ve updated then each year to reflect changes such as this year’s timetable changes at KS2. The videos last around 5 minutes and are ideal for sharing on school websites, twitter feeds, facebook pages, etc.

To help schools use them most effectively, I have provided links below in each of the main formats so they can easily be shared. Please feel free to share or download the videos and use them for your school:

Key Stage 2 tests

youtube facebookicon Twit mp4icon
YouTube Facebook Twitter MP4 download

Key Stage 1 tests – including Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling


youtube facebookicon Twit mp4icon
YouTube Facebook Twitter MP4 download

Key Stage 1 tests – without GPS

youtube facebookicon Twit mp4icon
YouTube Facebook Twitter MP4 download

Primary Assessment changes… again!

First of all, let me say that I’m pleased that primary assessment is changing again, because it’s been a disaster in so many ways. So here is a summary of the changes at each key stage – with my thoughts about each.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

  • The EYFS Profile will stay, but will be updated to bring it into line with the new national curriculum and take account of current knowledge & research. I’ve never been a huge fan of the profile, but I know most EY practitioners have been, so that seems a sensible move.
  • A proposed change to reduce the number of reported Early Learning Goals to focus on prime areas and Literacy/Maths
  • The ’emerging’ band may be divided to offer greater clarity of information particularly for lower-attaining pupils.
  • An advisory panel will be set up to advise on changes to the profile and ELGs. Membership of that could be contentious

Reception Baseline

  • New Reception baseline to be introduced from 2020 (with proper trialling beforehand this time, one presumes!) to take place in the first 6 weeks of school.
  • Won’t be a ‘test’, but also won’t be observational over time. Suspect something more like the current CEM model, perhaps?
  • Will focus on literacy & numeracy, and potentially a ‘self-regulation’ element, as good predictors for attainment in KS2
  • Data won’t be used for any judgements about Reception, but will be used at cohort level to judge progress by the end of KS2.
  • The intention is for the assessment to provide some narrative formative information about children’s next steps.

Key Stage 1

  • The KS1 Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling test will remain optional.
  • Statutory Assessment will remain until at least 2023 (to allow for a year of overlap with the first cohort to be assessed using Reception baseline).
  • A new framework for Teacher Assessment of Writing has been published for this year only. Exemplification will follow this term.
  • DfE will continue to make assessments available (perhaps through an assessment bank if that ever gets off the ground!) after 2023, to help schools to benchmark attainment.
  • After 2023, tests and statutory teacher assessment will become optional for through primary schools.
  • There is more work to be done to find a system which works well for infant/junior and first/middle schools. This will be done with those in the sectors.

Key Stage 2

  • A multiplication check will be introduced at the end of Year 4. (Although, of course, whether the end means July or May remains to be seen).
  • School-level data on the multiplication check won’t be published.
  • This will be the last year that teachers have to make Teacher Assessment judgements for Reading and Maths
  • A new framework for Teacher Assessment of Writing has been published for this year only. Exemplification will follow this term.
  • DfE will continue to evaluate other options for the future, but not really committing to anything yet.
  • Small trials of peer-to-peer moderation will take place this summer.
  • Science Teacher Assessment frameworks will be updated next year.
  • The Reading test will not be timetabled for Monday of SATs week any more (hurrah!)
  • The DfE aims to link the reading content of the tests more closely to the curriculum to ensure children are drawing on their knowledge.

My thoughts

Overall, I’m pleased. Most of these changes are to be welcomed. The Reception baseline is a sensible idea (just a shame it was so badly implemented the first time round), as is scrapping KS1 assessments. The Early Years changes seem reasonable given the popularity of the current setup. The improvements to the KS2 Reading test are positive, as is the removal of pointless Teacher Assessment judgements.

On Writing, I fear we haven’t gone far enough. The current system is a joke, and it seems like the interim solution we’ll have to replace the old interim solution will just aim to make it less awful without really fixing the problem. It’s a shame that there is no obvious answer on the horizon. Perhaps the department has had its fingers burnt by rushing into quick fixes in the past and is prepared to bide its time.

In the interim, the updated expectations for Writing seem more manageable both in terms of achieving and assessing them. Of course, the devil is in the detail. If we get another exemplification book that breaks down single statements into several tick-boxes then we may be back at square one. Equally, of course, we can expect proportions of pupils meeting the expected standard to rise again substantially this year. Surely we have to be honest now and say that we really cannot use this data for accountability purposes? Mind you, perhaps it won’t matter – if we’re all getting 90% in Writing, it’ll only be the tested subjects that will make a difference to the accountability!

There are some other changes I would have liked to have seen. I really don’t think the “expected standard” label is helpful, particularly in subjects where scaled scores are used; it’s a shame we’ve not seen the back of that.

We’re not out of the woods yet. But we’re heading in the right direction, and credit is due to those at the department for listening. Let’s just hope they keep listening until we all get it right.